On March 26, 2010, North Korea committed an act of war against South Korea. How did South Korea respond? They did nothing. The attack on the South Korean warship Cheonan killed 46 South Korean sailors. The attack was initially downplayed as an internal explosion, but according to South Korea’s Defense Minister, a torpedo attack was “most likely” the cause of the sinking. Both American, and South Korean officers believe that the torpedo was a Chinese imported Yu-3G model.
Instead of embracing the idea of a North Korean attack, President Lee Myung-bak of South Korea held off and adopted the stance that the sinking was caused by an internal explosion. Myung-bak even went as far to say “Everyone believes that the military is trying to cover something up.” South Korea was clearly trying to suppress anything that would confirm North Korean involvement in the sinking of the ship.
Even though the cause has been verified to be a torpedo, South Korea still has yet to make a move. Why doesn’t the South Korean government at least plead to the UN after the North Koreans killed 46 sailors? The answer: They are not in the position to.
Seoul, the capitol of South Korea, is within range of the North Korean "Korean People’s Army" (KPA) artillery, specifically the 620 Artillery Corps and the Kangdong Artillery Corps. Each corps possesses 6-12 brigades, each with 35-70 guns. Thus the KPA has approximately 1200 pieces pointing at Seoul. These weapons range from 155mm heavy guns to 240mm rocket launchers.
With this much fire power pointing at Seoul, what could South Korea do? If South Korea would respond militarily, they would be risking the safety of their capitol, which houses roughly twenty five percent of their population. Therefore, South Korea cannot respond.
So, what can South Korea do? Besides handling the event quietly, this act serves as a wakeup call. First, South Korea has learned that its military response options against the KPA are limited without risking the safety of Seoul. Second, South Korea has been reminded that hostilities with North Korea are possible. Tensions are still elevated. There is already talk of reorganizing South Korea’s armed forces to better deal with this sort of aggression. These changes would range from equipment to strategy. The biggest South Korean goal should be finding a way to render the KPA artillery obsolete. Whether this involves diplomacy or force, South Korea must discover a strategy so that they have a stronger response in the future. --- Bret Perry